Gather round kids, story time. 2011, a few weeks before christmas there were stirrings in the office where I was freelancing at for a long term gig. IT became apparent when one by one all of our web projects were bottlenecking in Dev. Essentially the higher ups had no intention of going through with the projects our creative department was working on. They were just waiting to get their ducks in a row so they could lay off everyone in one swoop. This is the crystalized moment when everyone in the office knows what is about to happen but nobody is talking about it. (Du-Du-Duuuuu) Lay offs.
In a hail mary response to the inevitable I had to really start thinking about what it is to market yourself as a freelance designer in a tough market. On such short notice I had to come up with something fast with whatever materials I had available. I adore hand lettering and paint; so I made a cute illustration card to send out. 5 million things went wrong with it, nothing went as planned, and every step of the way seemed to be a sacrifice of quality since it was so last minute. I couldn’t even get decent paper as our local paper store closed it doors a month before. OBVSLY. When I was finished, I didn’t even want to send them out because they weren’t up to my personal standard, however I was pot committed. The man hours involved compounded with the normal stress of the holidays compounded with knowing your about to be laid off. No pressure. To just not send them would be complete defeat. I begrudgingly sent them anyway to creative recruiters and head hunters. Took a picture and emailed it too friends that worked at a couple of cool design agency’s downtown. It got passed around and emailed. And amazingly, it worked! I had an interview and job lined up within the week. I thought WOW! I mean maybe it wasn’t easy thing to do but results are hard to ignore.
Fast forward to 2012.
This year I wanted a repeat of the tactile handmade cards with the addition of an interactive element that really serves two purposes. For the people I send cards to it’s an immediate call to action go look at my site, check out my new portfolio work and most importantly lets chat right now. But the interactive element also serves as a e-card to people you weren’t able to send a card; people you just met, people you forgot or other prospects, and a holiday web presence to post around the social media circuit. (Note: Web traffic is dead right before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve. So plan accordingly for that window.)
2012 I was able to plan ahead. I got great paper from French Paper Co., bakers twine from Knot and Bow, lovely postage stamps that matched my theme, and great McCaffrey’s Penmans Ink (actually this was my back up. I had a gold Windsor ink I intended to use but the metallics kept sinking). For the design I had things in mind but nothing seemed right until I was down to the wire and had to get the calligraphy done that day. For the interactive piece I absolutely no idea what I was going to do for it, just that I wanted to. It really just happened organically the night before it launched and found a cute plug-in called Snow Storm that made it snow on my site.
In the end I was really happy with how it turned out this year and couldn’t wait to send them out even though I was actually working already at a few excellent freelance jobs. But you never know. People like to layoff during the holidays so why not plan on doing a holiday promotion every year? It can lay some serious ground work if it does happen to you and reconnecting with everyone in your personal network will never be a waste of your time.